Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

RANT - Holocaust Movies


Good Morning!

A quick rant...

Today, I'm calling for a moratorium on Holocaust-related movies! Yes, that's right! I'll likely receive some flack for this, but I've done enough research on my reasons to feel comfortable enough to say it!

This weekend will see the release of just 2 films - one called Defiance, starring Daniel Craig in the true story of Jewish brothers living in Nazi-occupied Poland who escape to become resistance fighters; the other titled Good, starring Viggo Mortensen as a German professor who is forced to choose between his career and a Jewish friend during World War II.

Last weekend, Tom Cruise donned an eye patch to star in the true story of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg and the daring plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, in Valkyrie.

Can anyone name another historical tragedy that's been given as much big screen treatment as that which occurred between the years of 1941 and 1945, commonly now referred to as The Holocaust?

More than 6 million Jews, as well as members of other persecuted groups, were murdered in concentration camps such as Auschwitz.

By some estimates, the number of African slaves who died during the transatlantic slave trade is as much as 5 times the number of Jews who died in Nazi concentration camps (possibly a lot more); yet, the number of films (both theatrical and for television) that tell stories about Holocaust-era occurrences, dwarfs in multiples those told about the lives of the enslaved black men, women and children who lived and died - whether killed during their storage, shipment and initial landing in the "New World," or as a result of their actual labor, slave revolts or diseases they caught while living among "New World" populations.


As the death toll continues to rise in the centuries-old clash between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East - specifically between the Israelis and the Palestinians - be sure to arm yourself with knowledge of all accounts of the story before taking a side. Just about every article I've read on mainstream American news websites on the subject, as well as reports on television, unabashedly favor the Jews, while completely vilifying the Arabs.

Clearly, there's a powerful machine at work here that intends to ensure America doesn't forget one tragedy (The Holocaust and its victims), even though it seems to want to completely ignore another (slavery and its effects) - one that we can arguably consider has had a much more significant overall impact on the current state of world affairs!



  1. Jaceeel said...

    It shouldn't be forgoten. Because slavey/jim crow is ignored doesn't make holocaust less important. Jewish people basically invented (have the longest history in show biz) hollywood so it isn't surprising that they green light alot movies about, staring or directed by jewish people. To be fair i think since munich this is a different type of jewish film. Defiance and Munich are about Israel in a roundabout way. But Good, The reader, Downfall and Valkyrie are about rethinking german's role in the halocaust. The thing about the holocaust and slavey is it happens in history (right now and in the future) over and over again. Whenever i see an new holocaust/jewish experince film open i think why can't enough black people come together to control our image and do better in our films.

  2. The Obenson Report said...

    "Because slavery/jim crow is ignored doesn't make holocaust less important."

    That certainly wasn't my implication - but rather to point out the fact that the Hollywood elite have already made that decision for us. There's clearly a bias here that should be noted.

    On the other hand, your last sentence says plenty: the Jews in Hollywood wield the immense power they possess to ensure that their stories (their histories in this specific case) are kept alive via the medium we know as cinema - arguably the most powerful and influential form of media there is. The few blacks with any power don't seem quite as interested in doing the same.

    Of course, we could expand the argument further and acknowledge the unequal distribution of power and control within the corporate-controlled studio system, and the fact that blacks are in the tiny minority, which means they have very little influence on what gets produced and distributed...

  3. jaceeel said...

    I still think we have the all the necessary components to have our own cinema to market to the world. It's not a big studio world anymore. The internet/digtial media is key. I just hope in the obama yes we can haze that we really act esp. in the next four years. I know Obama isn't the be all end all but it feels like opportunity.

  4. The Obenson Report said...

    "I still think we have the all the necessary components to have our own cinema to market to the world."

    Mos def! I've been singing that song for years now. Change will likely come from those of us at the base.

  5. Invisible Hand said...

    I was just having this conversation with my wife while watching Defiance and The Reader over the weekends. She, in general, is WWII'd out. I think that Hollywood is particularly drawn to the stories from that era because they involve high stakes (life and death), easily identified good guys and bad guys (and the double-plus-good part is that the U.S. is NEVER the bad guys) and a familiar narrative that won't alienate an audience. Those three factors I think make it easy to market and easy to sell. It's almost to the point where it's become a distinguishable genre unto itself (like noire or a romantic comedy... as slate points out:

    That being said, I'd be in favor of a moratorium on all black period pieces... whether slave narratives, Harlem Renaissance movies or feel-goody Civil Rights era stories. They, to me, lack the language to deal with the realities of contemporary black life and too often provide a historical distance that places the issues of race, racism, class, etc. in the past-tense and as something that's been dealt with already.

    I personally would love to see a year or two of nothing back films dealing with the contemporary black experience and the 30 million way it manifests itself in America today. Not that that's going to happen.

  6. Geniusbastard said...

    Invisible Hand: Word!!!

    I have had it with both the Holocaust film and the Black period drama.

    When you make the Holocaust into a genre, you make demands that each story conform to certain narrative and emotional expectations that someone's story may not meet. And history is too complex for that.

    And yes, I think we have to deal with our complicity in keeping Black life on screen rooted in a difficult past where , as stated earlier, the good guys are easily distinguished from the bad guys.

    And that is the bottom line on both cases. Hollywood's hatred of complexity and ambiguity is the real enemy to the historical drama.

  7. Anonymous said...

    The glut of Holocaust films this season is very striking, indeed. I think there is a little bit of antipathy rising because of it. For example, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" received some unfavorable & harsh reviews, even though it has all the elements of an awards magnet. I reviewed the film favorably, but I believe its buzz was generated mostly by its controversial ending.

    Regarding black period pieces, I agree that there should also be a moratorium for the foreseeable future. I have made this point time and again, but we need more nuanced, creative & true-to-life black films that refuse to take the played-out road of "AW LAWD!" preachiness and dull comedies (Mr. Perry, please approach the bench).

    Wouldn't it be grand if we saw black films in the quality vein of "Memento" or "There Will Be Blood" regularly? A creative renaissance is sorely needed.

  8. Claire said...

    The global political PR firm termed "Hollywood" has historically proven itself a powerful cultural conditioning tool, primarily of the American mind and ultimately on an international scale. Any view, irregardless of being political, defamatory or even inaccurate, becomes passable when packaged as entertainment. One among of thousands of examples, the film "300", serves revisionist history at full computer animation enhanced glory.

    Despite it's integral place in the DNA of American history, this sacrilegious reference to the fact that America was built on the corpses of 700 million black slaves is one story whose willful negligence casts a shroud of hypocrisy over a people who vaunt equality and justice for all as cornerstones of their society. For the conditioned, the denial and negligence of the statistic will not allow shock to enter the equation and for the rest shock is only a testament to the grave ignorance, yet a step forward.

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